Bitel said the London Marathon organizers “haven’t heard of one person who’s not attending because of what happened in Boston.” Thom Gilligan of Boston-based Marathon Tours & Travel, had one woman drop out of his group of 300 American and Canadian runners. The woman was a mother of four and “felt guilty about leaving her children with all that was going on.”
And less than 24 hours before the start, some runners and their supporters continued to rework their race day plans. Jeff Hammer of Westport, Conn., briefly considered not competing in the London Marathon because “my wife is worried about copycat events.” He arrived in London with his family as part of a European vacation, but doesn’t think his family will be watching from any roadside “because of the minute chance that something could go wrong.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Fabians briefly debated whether they would fly to London. Family and friends asked the couple not to go. But the Fabians decided, as Tom said, that it was “a chance of a lifetime” to run Boston and London less than a week apart.
“We’d gotten text messages from London organizers saying they had beefed up security,” said Carole. “You can’t let terrorism run your life. We have to put our trust in the people there to protect us.”
Added Tom: “It didn’t seem like a major terror organization plot to us. We figured that this was something with a couple of people that were more interested in hurting other people, rather than making a statement to the world.”
As with all marathons, many of the people lining the course will be the family and friends of runners. Joan Campbell of Liverpool will be there supporting her 19-year-old son, Jack, in his first marathon. She plans to cheer Jack between miles 6 and 7, head to the Tower Bridge to catch him at miles 13 and 22, then go to the finish. “If anything was to happen, Jack is probably the safest because he’s on the track,” said Joan. “We’re probably more vulnerable in the crowd.” Sue Van Evra of Canmore, Alberta, will wait for her boyfriend at the finish.
“I definitely felt uneasy when I heard about what happened at Boston,” said Van Evra. “But I’m a runner and I feel like if we don’t run, if we don’t spectate, you’re kind of feeding into fear.”
In a visual treat for runners and spectators, the London Marathon passes many of the most iconic sites in the city, from Tower Bridge to the Houses of Parliament to Big Ben to Buckingham Palace. And the finish area extends almost to 10 Downing Street, where the prime minister resides. While the Boston course passes through the suburbs, and fans sometimes spill over from lawns onto the street, the London route screams history and big city during many sections. At key viewing spots such as Tower Bridge, waist-high barriers keep spectators back from the roadway.
Bitel believes the iconic sites along the course add to runner and spectator safety “because those are the places the police are used to securing all the time.”
“We always had a desire that London is always open,” said Bedford. “So, we’re used to bouncing back from challenges. We always believe an event going ahead is the best way to attack back any potential or actual threat.”
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.